The Letters


For as long as I can remember there has been some level of stress associated with me doing a job. As a very small boy I can remember the discomfort I felt when I was told to go wash my hands. And the worst ever was when it was time to clean out my toy box. I would have to empty the whole thing, wipe down the inside and then put things back that belonged, and even throw out things that I didn’t use anymore. As an older boy, in the summer I would be sent out to weed two whole rows of the garden before I was allowed to do anything fun. I can remember the dread of having to move firewood or rake leaves and that same discomfort in my gut would plague me. And then, as a teenager, I started doing work for money. I would get paid real money to do the work! But even still, as the lawn that needed to be mowed stretched out in front of me or the trays of dirty dishes that needed to be washed streamed in from the restaurant dining room faster than I could possibly wash them, that familiar feeling churning my innards would come back. I have learned that feeling is called stress. And surely most of us reading this are familiar with it.

The word stress is a shortened form of “distress.” Stress has a physical or mechanical connotation (like pre-stressed concrete, put stress on a syllable of a word, stress fractures, or when you “stress a point” to show how important it is.) But, in the 1950’s the psychological meaning we are referring to today was coined. In terms of our health and mental state, stress is not necessarily a bad thing. It is a natural reaction to a perceived threat. It triggers the release of certain hormones that prepare us for a fight, or for running away. The problem for us is when we experience this heightened state of alert too often and for too long. There is much evidence linking chronic stress to serious health problems like high blood pressure and heart disease.

While there are many sources of unhealthy stress in the world, the most common being financial worries, I am personally plagued with work related stress. As an adult professional, I’ve become accustomed to deadlines for projects at work. As my career has matured, I am given more responsibility and more authority to get the job done. This is the natural progression and quite welcomed, but I have yet to be in charge of that deadline. The deadline, it seems to me, is the root of the stress. It is that point in time that looms large and never moves. And I feel like the tasks needed to be accomplished before that time are always underestimated and always increase as the project develops. A perfect recipe for stress every time.

I have the great blessing of working with some folks who love God. One man created a regular meeting on Wednesdays at lunchtime for us to be with God and each other. We explore our relationships with Him and share our experiences. We often watch an inspiring video with a message that we can take with us for the rest of the week. And because this group has in common the company we work for, the work-related source of stress I mentioned often shows up in our fellowship. Recently I was whining about my deadline and how unreasonable it was and expressing my incredulous disbelief at how impossible it will be to meet it. Yes, for this project, my stress level was high. That day my friend was a conduit for God to deliver a message to me.

 He asked me, “You were made in according to God’s likeness and image right?” Yes. “And Moses asked God at the burning bush what he should say when the people asked him who sent him? God said ’I am.’ Remember? So, created in His image, you are, not was. You are, not will be. You, created in His image, are. Now. And that’s what you need to focus on. You don’t know what this project will look like in the end. But He does!”  This idea of living in the present and not dwelling on the past or future is not new for me, but what my friend told me was quite novel and is worthy of some meditation. Regardless of the result of that meditation, the idea that God knows the outcome of a situation is a comforting stress-buster!

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; (Isaiah 46:10)

Here in the Northeast we get snowstorms that require us to clear the snow before we can leave home. I have a gas powered snowblower to help me with that job. After a snowstorm I’ll check the gas tank of the snow blower and even if there’s a third of a tank, I’ll start the job knowing that I don’t have enough fuel to finish. Not finishing the job is problematic because we either have to drive through deep snow to leave the house or get out one of those old-fashioned manual shovels and do some real hard work. But generally I don’t stress about running out of gas. That’s because I know that in the shed is a gas can I will use to fill the snow blower ensuring that I can complete the job. In other words, the immediate situation may look bleak, but there is an abundant supply to ensure the job will be completed. Do you see where I’m going? Much like my gas supply, God’s creation is abundant. And that abundance is not limited to food or clothing or shelter, God’s abundance encompasses all things.

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; (2 Corinthians 9:8)

The stress we may experience on any given day is probably the result of our over-active imagination. There is great benefit to life, and potential for success, when we anticipate a problem or a challenge; we have an inherent and valuable ability to imagine a sequence of possible events and see a potential result. This skill is valuable because it can allow us to modify our behavior to affect a preferrable outcome.

The prudent sees the evil and hides himself, But the naive go on, and are punished for it.  (Proverbs 22:3)

There is a problem, though. At least with me, I tend to abuse this ability. In other words, I regularly overthink the situation, my imagination runs off toward the worst-case scenario, my mental simulation often ends up in flames. And that is not beneficial. Anticipation is a necessary action while driving in traffic; it minimizes the chance for surprises. It is also an essential skill when playing soccer, to inform you of where you should run to on the field. But there is a common progression of anticipation turning to worry that we should work to avoid. “Worry is a down payment on a problem you may never have” says Joyce Meyer (Christian author and speaker.) When you are anticipating the outcome of a situation, don’t get sucked into a state of worry. In Matthew 6:25-34, Messiah tells us to not worry about life. That is not our job. Place your burden on Him. Go to Him, all of you who are weary and heavy-laden, and He will give you rest. (Mat11:28)

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:34)

Unlike “stress,” which can have some benefit, “worry” is a useless, waste of resources. The ancestor of the word worry is the Old English verb wyrgan, which means “to strangle.” Don’t strangle yourself!

“A great storm is like a sunny day to a person of great faith. A gentle wind is like a great storm to a person of great fear.”  Matshona Dhliwayo (author, philosopher)

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.
(Colossians 3:2)                    

Peace to you and glory to God!



In the strict sense, the meaning of guilt is the implication of an action. In other words, because you did it, you are guilty; you have the guilt. And, generally, this is for negative things. We don’t typically accuse someone of being guilty of feeding the poor. Merriam-Webster has the first definition as: “the fact of having committed a breach of conduct especially violating law and involving a penalty.” In other words, a person has guilt when they have committed something bad and that action is discovered. That’s when we say they are guilty. But there’s another meaning of the word that we, in our modern vernacular, use frequently that is just as correct. Merriam-Webster has the 2nd definition as: “feelings of deserving blame especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy: self-reproach” This is the meaning that I would like to focus on today. Spoiler alert: I am going to condemn this waste of mental resource. If you love this type of guilt, you should stop reading… I’m kidding – that is even more reason to read on!

There is a significant overlap of this guilt with another feeling that we experience, one that is also potentially a waste of mental resources. Regret and guilt overlap when someone dwells on an unchangeable thing that happened in the past and they “beat themself up” about it. But regret can be useful for evaluating one’s actions in the past, and to guide decisions in the future. Guilt, as a “feeling of deserving blame for an imagined offense or from a sense of inadequacy,” is never useful. This type of guilt sounds to me like a psychological tool of the adversary used to distract and deceive us.

The LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.”  (Genesis 6:7)

Here in Genesis 6, God regretted making man, but He did not have that guilt we are talking about here. God used the results of what happened to improve the situation moving forward. God has shared with us a few instances of Him having regret, but they are always avenues for improvement and never sources of guilt. Definition #2 of guilt is never beneficial.

Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel, saying, “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands.” And Samuel was distressed and cried out to the LORD all night.
(1 Samuel 15:10-11)

Here in 1 Samuel, it seems that Samuel suffered about the regret more than God did. The downfall of Saul formed King David’s character! Without Saul’s antics, David may not have developed into the king we know today. Regret can lead us to make better decisions in the future, and it can also lead us to one of the most important decisions we can make in our walk:

I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.
(2 Corinthians 7:9-10)

That is a powerful statement: The sorrow of the world produces death. What else produces death? Romans 6:23, “the wages of sin are death.” This “sorrow of the world” is what I am calling “guilt.” Yes, we screw up. We make mistakes. We sin and too often do regretful things. And this guilt that am condemning has no place in our life. It causes death. I dare say that it is a sin.

Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:3-5)

Judas suffered horrible remorse that ended in his death. His internal guilt was evidently unbearable. His actions look sort of like repentance, but he confessed to the wrong party; God does not turn His face away from true repentance. Let’s make a turn here, away from the negative and toward the positive. Above, in 2 Corinthians 7, we also saw that “sorrow according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation.” Regret leads to repentance, and then you leave the regret behind.

Whether we recognize it or not, God blesses us with an abundance of mercy, forgiveness, love, guidance… And, while it may be difficult to see at times, His promise includes an abundance of the physical needs as well. Here is Deuteronomy 28, the blessings and the cursing… Reading the list of blessings through verse 14 is quite uplifting. But also notice the conditions for receiving them.

“Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the LORD your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. “All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the LORD your God: …
(Deuteronomy 28:1-2 … read through verse 14 for some true encouragement!)

Abundance means “more than enough.” We have a surplus of these things, they will overtake us, but only if we claim them. I think that by dwelling with guilt, the sorrow of the world, we are denying ourselves those promises. We all have regrets in life. Turning those into productive reflections by being truly repentant toward God will allow us to claim those promises of abundance. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon seems to have written this in reverse. He seems to say, because God blesses us so much, we are freed from dwelling on the past and wasting time with guilt. (Keep in mind that God has already given riches and wealth to all who diligently obey, according to Deuteronomy 28 above.)

Furthermore, as for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, He has also empowered him to eat from them and to receive his reward and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God. For he will not often consider the years of his life, because God keeps him occupied with the gladness of his heart. (Ecclesiastes 5:19-20)

“He will not often consider the years of his life.” The King James translation has it as: “For he shall not much remember the days of his life; because God answereth him in the joy of his heart.” This blessed man enjoys God’s abundant promises without dwelling on the past – certainly not the regretful things in the past. This idea is given to us again quite directly in Philippians.

Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)

This is an admonition to keep your eyes on the prize. Acknowledge your mistake, brush off the dirt, get back up, ask for help, ask for forgiveness, and keep marching! Leave the regret behind, and never touch the guilt.

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.
(Colossians 3:2)                    

Peace to you and glory to God!



I remember as a child watching a cartoon, probably Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny, where there was a “Wildlife Refuge” protecting the animals from the hunters. The hunters had effectively surrounded the place and if an animal crossed the line and allowed so much as a whisker outside of the boundary, a barrage of fire power would cause utter devastation. That humorous situation stuck with me to my late teen years. At that time I lived in western Pennsylvania, where deer hunting was a really big deal. In fact, the first day of buck season was an official day off from school. I know that there were several farms in the area that were posted “no hunting” and many hunters believed that the prized bucks all knew that they were safe on those farms – veritable wildlife refuges. More likely, this was the hunters’ excuse for not bagging the trophy buck they wanted, but I always wonder if the animals are smarter than we give them credit for and were able to somewhat protect themselves by keeping to these certain farms.

There are a handful of Hebrew words that are commonly translated into English as “refuge.” They all mean “place of protection” or “to flee from danger” or something similar. This is not one of those challenging words to translate. The meaning is clear in any language. The English word comes from Latin refugium “a place to flee back to,” (from re- “back” + fugere “to flee” + -ium “place for.”) The “fuge” part of the English is the same root as in the word “fugitive,” one who is fleeing. Do you think it is interesting that a refuge is a place of safety that we return to – that we were once there and at some point left? I do not know if the same association of “returning” to someplace is true for those Hebrew words, but I cannot help thinking of God’s refuge as returning to the Garden of Eden; in my mind the perfect example of a refuge. To appreciate this image of Eden being a refuge in terms of the cartoon example above, however, the “hunter” is stationed in the center of the refuge up in the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam and Eve set out one whisker and Wham! All hell broke loose – for thousands of years. We need to flee back to that place.

Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:15-17)

But, we can’t go back, don’t you remember? God banished “us” from that Paradise. We were kicked out and guards were stationed to ensure that we would never return, right? Are you sure? Let’s examine that passage again, just to be sure:

So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:24)

Only the Tree is guarded, not the entire Refuge. In verse 22, just before this, God made the decision to cast Adam and Eve out so that they would not “take of the Tree of Life, eat, and live forever.” But, we know, or should know, that God is merciful and has retained for us access to the Refuge. The Kingdom of God – is that a distinctly different refuge, or is it the same as Eden?

Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” (Luke 17:20-21)

Regardless of what the refuge is called, or what it looks like, when it is from God and you are in it, then you are safe and provided for. That’s where I want to be! But, how do we get in it? Here is one example of how God granted a place of refuge for a man and his family:

“Behold, I, even I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall perish. “But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. (Genesis 6:17-18)

Noah, and his family were given a refuge from the destroying flood, but that is because he entered into a covenant with God. It looks like access to a refuge is often, maybe always, connected with an agreement one makes. But, if you make an agreement, or covenant, with the wrong entity, the refuge you get may be a false, inadequate, troublesome, or deadly refuge. Here are a few examples; if you read them, look for the agreement, with whom it was made, and what the “refuge” is. Check out Deuteronomy 32:15-38 – Jeremiah 17:1-6 – Isaiah 30:1-17 – Revelation 6:15-17 – Luke12:16-21 – and with a bit of searching, you will find many more. In that last one, Luke 12, Messiah tells the story of a rich man seeking refuge in his wealth. (Spoiler alert – this is NOT a winning strategy.) In this case, the rich man made an agreement with himself to provide long term financial security. But, provision and security can only come from God. You’ve likely heard the phrase “sell your soul to the devil.” That’s an obvious example of a regretful covenant one can make. Scripture has plenty of other examples for us of what not to seek as a refuge. This one below contains a warning of the wrong path as well as a guide to the right one:

Because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death, And with Sheol we have made a pact. The overwhelming scourge will not reach us when it passes by, For we have made falsehood our refuge and we have concealed ourselves with deception.” Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed. (Isaiah 28:15-16)

Notice the reference to the Costly Cornerstone, the Firm Foundation, our Rock, our Refuge. Forever, man has recognized that caves (generally made of rock) are a safe place that can protect us from most things that can harm us – weather, animals, enemies, so we naturally seek out caves to hide in. Read Revelation 6:15-17, Matthew 7:24-25, Psalms: 46:1, 62:6-7, 71:3, etc… Castles and fortresses are built from rock, and on top of rock, for good reason. The real rock, our true refuge is, of course, God.

“There is no one holy like the LORD, Indeed, there is no one besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God. (1 Samuel 2:2)

But rocky caves do not protect us from disease or hunger, nor do they fight our battles, nor provide comfort and warmth. Physical rocks will not love us. But God’s refuge will and does all of those things. There are other images of God’s refuge that we can see: Philippians 4:7 (peace beyond comprehension) – Isaiah 25:4-5 (shade from the heat) – Ruth 2:12 (wings of protection and provision) – Psalm 84:11 (sun and shield) – Ephesians 2:4-6 (life!) – John 10:9 (The Door) – Matt 8:26 (calm seas) – Isa32:2 (streams of water) – Psm 91, (protection from disease etc.) – John 15:12 (love) – ultimately John 10:28-29 (eternal life)

This is the lesson here: Seek God, ask Him for a relationship, and enter into a Covenant with Him. Then you will dwell in His rich and abundant Refuge.

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.
(Colossians 3:2)                    

Peace to you and glory to God!



I did check the obvious sources for historical evidence, and I seem to have confirmed what I imagined. That is our earth has never seen a day of peace since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. God, the Creator, made everything with the intention of peace and prosperity, but because of that grave error at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, things are very different. He created us with “free will” and we chose then, and continue to choose even now, disobedience and strife. Every single day, God’s children have committed some form of strife. From our individual perspective, this may not be evident. For example, I personally can go days without getting upset at my kids, or criticizing my wife, or complaining about colleagues at work. I experience a few days of my “good behavior” and can feel righteous, but God sees the collective behavior of all of us and must feel sad. I know I would; when I see my kids fighting with each other, as rare as that is, my heart aches. God’s children are in continuous strife; we have been all day, every day, for thousands of years.

So, what is strife? A modern definition is a contentious, often violent argument or conflict. I found one translation from the Greek that called it “an affection for dispute.” Surely not every case, but I bet most incidents of strife involve pride – that hidden, ubiquitous sin that lurks in all of us.

Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; Assuredly, he will not be unpunished. (Proverbs 16:5)

Strife is one of those things that has absolutely zero redeeming qualities. Nothing good ever comes from it. In fact, practicing it will prevent you from entering into the Kingdom.

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
(Galatians 5:19-21)

Please understand, we are human, and God is Merciful. This admonition from Paul in his letter to the Galatians is not saying that we cannot get angry. Notice the word “practice” above? Living a life that makes those deeds a habit would disqualify one’s inheritance.

David, out of his love for and devotion to God, wanted to build a house for Him. But, God instructed David to wait and let his son, Solomon, build it. That story is in both 2 Samuel 7 and 1 Chronicles 17. And here is what Solomon has to say about it:

“You know that David my father was unable to build a house for the name of the LORD his God because of the wars which surrounded him, until the LORD put them under the soles of his feet. “But now the LORD my God has given me rest on every side; there is neither adversary nor misfortune. (1 Kings 5:3-4)

The temple could not be built until there was peace on all sides. David could not build the temple because of the violence and strife around him. Conflict and quarrel also prevent us from building our House, that is, a dwelling place for God. He will live in both our physical and spiritual bodies, when we have peace on all sides.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? (1 Corinthians 6:19)

Clearly, we should not seek strife, and we hopefully work at not creating it. We can run the other way and in our minds dwell only on the things that are true, honorable, righteous, pure, lovely, reputable, excellent, and praiseworthy. But what happens when it finds us? Where does strife come from? What can we do about it?

Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all transgressions. (Proverbs 10:12)

Some men in the time of Messiah were exhibiting hatred toward an adulteress, or maybe toward the sin of adultery; they were ready to unleash some strife in the form of a stoning, to punish her for infidelity. Their hatred stirred up strife. Along comes Messiah, full of and exuding love, and says those often-quoted words:

But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)

When strife finds us, we need to exude love. Love comes from God and is infinite in supply. If it is not flowing out of us, the issue is not a lack of love, it is that we are restricting its flow. Open the valve.

Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, But any fool will quarrel. (Proverbs 20:3)

According to this scripture, I feel that I have honor. I mean, I do a pretty good job at keeping away from physical strife. There have been very few times in my life that I have engaged in violent strife- Externally. Inside my head, however, I am often that proverbial fool! I have had so many quarrels and suffered from so much strife inside my own imagination. I have verbally fought with so many people whom I know and love and likely just as many whom I’ve never met. I have had imaginary arguments and given imaginary lessons, lectures, and sermons to folks in all walks of life, from street people to world leaders. This too, I believe, is strife. The dialogs that I have inside my head always have me in the right (pride.) I don’t think I have ever learned a valuable lesson or affected positive change by engaging in one of these invisible conversations. And most of them were full of, if not certainly ended in, strife. Is that a good use of my mental resource?

But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. (James 3:14-17)

This passage ends with the word “hypocrisy.” Having strife in your heart, or in your mind, may lead to external, physical strife, but not necessarily. If you are able to contain the strife and not “let it out,” you may be better off than if you got into a fight, but you are still not clean – you are still exhibiting, and harboring, hatred. “Hatred stirs up strife.” This is the hypocrisy James is referring to. Seek the Wisdom from above.

What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:1-3)

The purpose and goal of our walk here is to make ourselves ready. Strife counters that goal, but Love draws us toward it. We will do ourselves good to recognize that strife can infiltrate our minds and hearts. We need to reflect on our own thoughts and motives and dwell on only those good things listed in Philippians 4:8, creating peace on all sides.

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.
(Colossians 3:2)           

Peace to you and glory to God!



My wife and I both like hiking, but there’s a difference between us in what we like. I love being in the forest. I could happily spend all day walking around, smelling the fresh air, admiring the trees and rocks and mosses, listening to the birds… But my wife wants a bigger reward for her effort of tromping along the trail. She wants to arrive at a destination – something like a summit view, a peaceful lakeshore, a canyon, a waterfall. As a result, there is always a higher level of satisfaction in hiking when she comes along. There is something great to be said about a worthy destination.

But surely, you’ve heard that getting there is half the fun, haven’t you? Do you believe it? I guess it depends on what you like, where you are headed, how you are getting there, and, most importantly, what actually happens along the way. But I think the statement has some truth to it. Maybe getting there is not always “half” the fun, but there is always some enjoyment we can get from the journey. Especially when considering the anticipation of the trip with optimism.

For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. (Romans 8:24-25)

With the planning of any trip there comes the anticipation of the journey and the destination. We use this anticipation to help us plan. If we take climbing a mountain as an example, we can set our minds on the destination of the summit; that is where the reward is, an expansive view and a sense of accomplishment. Many times, you can even see the destination before you start the trek. But generally, the trail is invisible from a distance, hidden by the forest, winding through the terrain. In planning, we try to anticipate what we might experience along the way: chilly winds – we pack a jacket, physical exertion – we bring water and food, slippery rocks – we wear good boots and find a sturdy walking stick, beautiful views – don’t forget a camera. And, in case something bad happens, we may want a first aid kit, a compass, a knife, some matches… Because you never know. In our anticipation, we hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. (1 Thessalonians 5:8)

Prepare for the worst; that is, put on your armor. An arrow in the chest may or may not come, but either way, a breastplate is a good idea. Hope for the best; what could be better than salvation and eternal life?  In Matthew 25, there is the story of the 10 virgins who went out to meet the bridegroom, not knowing when He would come. Five of them were prepared for the worst and brought an auxiliary supply of oil for their lamps. The other 5 did not anticipate the delay and not only were they called foolish, they missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime.

Choosing the path is also an important aspect of the journey. Any hiker certainly has the option to start “bushwhacking” up the hill, hopefully finding their way to the top. But, there’s a risk in choosing that method. Even though most people stick to the trail network, there are generally choices to make there as well. Would a short, steep climb be preferred over a meandering scenic route? How does one even know what the choices are? I can think of a few options for making an informed choice. Find a trail map, or a guidebook. Talk with someone who has experience. Or, you could contact the authority, the park service, the body that oversees the trails. This method also seems to work for other journeys that you might want to plan. How would you get from Paris to Melbourne? And once you’re there, what’s the best way to get from your hotel to a good restaurant? If you’re seeking eternal life, what decisions should you consider as you make your way. For these and other destinations:  Check the guidebook,

Your Word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path. (Psalms 119:105)

Talk with others who share your destination,

Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who esteem His name. (Malachi 3:16)

if possible, consult with the authority. (Seek the Eternal while He may be found… Isaiah 55:6)

Thus says the LORD, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ (Jeremiah 6:16)

Yes, go to Melbourne, climb the mountain, journey to various places, and experience this beautiful world. Our physical walk here is not only for “toil and strife,” eating our bread by the sweat of our brow as it says in Gen 3:19. We certainly are in a training ground just as the Israelites were in the wilderness for 40 years, training for the Promised Land, but God made this world beautiful and marvelous for us to enjoy and explore.  Likewise, our spiritual walk is intended for intense training, refinement, and development, but we need to balance that with joy, fulfilment, and celebration. Because, that is what we are training for. The route may be strenuous and challenging, but the destination will undoubtedly have the peace, joy, and beauty much like what you find after climbing to the summit of a mountain.  Let’s not forget, however, that proper training is essential to reaching the destination safely. Choosing the wrong path can be fatal. Please read all of Proverbs 2 for the full effect, and to learn who “she” is. But, here is the key warning from that chapter:

For her house sinks down to death and her tracks lead to the dead; None who go to her return again, Nor do they reach the paths of life. (Proverbs 2:18-19)

Proverbs 4 is another chapter that speaks of keeping to the right path. Our training has much to do with avoiding those temptations of life that divert our path from joy, success, and long life to ruin, destruction, and death. Our ability to avoid and resist temptation comes from the preparation we are willing to work for. The better we prepare, the easier our path will be. The Israelites, enjoying the grace of God, smoothly sailed through the Red Sea and directly to the Promised Land. But, other than Jacob and Caleb, they were not prepared to Trust in God. This unpreparedness and lack of trust resulted in 40 years of hard training, wandering through the wilderness. You and I need to familiarize ourselves with the Guidebook, share our experiences with others and learn from theirs, and most importantly, consult the Authority, the Creator of the trail network. “Ask for where the good way is and walk in it.” This advice from Jeremiah is simple, but extremely valuable. If we ask, He will answer.

I’ve seen a coffee mug, or bumper sticker, or tee shirt with the admission “I live for the weekend.” Well, I can relate to that somewhat. The Sabbath is the day of rest that comes at the end of the week. The Sabbath is the week’s destination. And I think an extension of that is our Ultimate Destination, the final Rest. The promise of eternal life, whatever that looks like, is perfect, unending rest.

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.
(Colossians 3:2)           

Peace to you and glory to God!



I can imagine someone reading this letter in English might also read, speak, and understand Swahili, or Spanish, French, Chinese, German, Portuguese, Icelandic, Norwegian, Russian, Afrikaans, etc. But it is unlikely that anyone reading this would know all of those languages. Remember the story of when humanity was unified, and they (we) decided to build something great? We used bricks to make a tower and we wanted to do it without God to make a name for ourselves. That is when God separated us from one another by creating the different languages. That story of the Tower of Babel is found in Genesis 9. After that, we spoke different languages and communication with each other was more difficult, but not impossible. There was a form of communication that God did not change, and it remains pretty much universal today. This language of facial expression is literally something we are all born with. A newborn infant has no trouble letting mom and dad know when it is upset! In fact, regardless of one’s ethnicity, any human would be able to tell. Facial expressions seem to be designed into us.   

but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So, Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? (Genesis 4:5-6)

“Countenance” is understood to mean facial expression. Charles Spurgeon was credited with saying, “When you speak of Heaven, let your face light up, let it be irradiated with a heavenly gleam, let your eyes shine with reflected glory. But when you speak of Hell—well, then your ordinary face will do.”

A friend of mine made this observation: In a public space when there is a baby present, most of the time the adults that are paying attention to the baby are all smiling. There is something about the innocence and purity of a baby that makes us smile. That observation reminded me of this scripture:

[Messiah] said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3-4)

Maybe when we exhibit the innocence and humility that a baby has, God smiles at us.

There are many published studies that show how smiling and, by extension, laughter, are beneficial to us. These benefits include physical health improvements such as lowering one’s stress level, anxiety, and blood pressure, increasing one’s immune function, and improving one’s homeostasis. There are psychological benefits such as making one feel happy; this is true for both the person smiling and whoever sees the smile! Laughter and smiling also provide an outlet for emotions. There are sociological benefits; people tend to have more trust in and are more attracted to people who are smiling. There is also evidence that these benefits can come even if the smile is fake! If you force yourself to smile when you are feeling down, you will likely improve your mood and feel better.

Bright eyes gladden the heart; Good news puts fat on the bones. (Proverbs 15:30)

A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, But when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken. (Proverbs 15:13)

Dr. Paul Ekman is a psychologist who has studied facial expressions for his entire career. I learned a lot about smiles from his website. From his research, he claims there are, and has categorized, dozens of different types of smiles. Most interestingly, a genuine smile will engage two circular muscles on the face that surround each eye. Often one can tell if a smile is fake when the eyes are not “smiling.” Lately most of us have had some opportunity to experience people smiling with their mouth covered. Even while wearing a mask, a smile can be perceived, received, and enjoyed. I think maybe part of what makes a person “photogenic” is that they are able to engage these eye muscles to create an authentic looking smile. This is one way to explain how “the eyes are a window to our soul.”

The scriptures also make it clear to us that God smiles. Since we are made in his image, it would only make perfect sense that we would share, relate to, and understand His “facial” expressions:

Make Your face shine on Your servant, and teach me Your Statutes. (Psalms 119:135)

Early in the book of Numbers, God was laying out the rules for and expectations of the Levites, Aaron, and the priesthood. At the end of chapter 6, God gives Moses a blessing to deliver to Aaron:

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them: The LORD bless you, and keep you; The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.‘ “So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them.” (Numbers 6:22-27)

Such a Blessing it is to have God smile on you. There is another smile that I want to look at here. That is the internal smile – it is like a secret of happiness that you have. This is the smile that you can carry with you no matter what happens. I have experienced this while working hard, maybe digging a hole in the ground. My expression is concentrated, my body is feeling discomfort from the exertion, my actions are focused on the job, but my mind may have been reminded of something joyful. I think of something that pulls me away from the physical situation and I smile in my mind. I feel my heart filled with peace and an ease of existence. That is a true blessing. God smiles at me and fills my heart with gladness.

Many are saying, “Who will show us any good?” Lift up the light of Your countenance upon us, O LORD! You have put gladness in my heart, More than when their grain and new wine abound. (Psalms 4:6-7)

In Acts 16, Paul and Silas are in prison, undoubtedly cold, hungry, and beaten. But they have an internal smile and they let some of it out in the form of song! They sing in their misery. They are able to smile in their suffering! Messiah, James, David and others understood this also:

“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:12)

The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him. (Psalms 28:7)

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

We also would do ourselves well to understand this… Practice your internal smile, but don’t keep it inside always. It is most effective when it is freely and widely shared!

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:2)           

Peace to you and glory to God!



When I hear the word “exclusive,” I think of luxurious resorts, private golf courses, and posh parties. When searching for synonyms of “exclusive,” I am not surprised to see words like ritzy, swank, posh, fashionable, etc. But these words are not literal synonyms, they have become associated with “exclusive” through their use and have often given that word a desirable connotation. An exclusive country club is a place where only members can play golf. And to become a member is generally quite costly. The poor “riff-raff” who cannot afford the membership fees are excluded from playing.  I might feel honored or fortunate to be invited to spend the day at an “exclusive club” like that. But, in real life, in everyday life, I am considered riff-raff, not worthy of such privilege, and excluded from the club. Exclusive really means “Excluding or tending to exclude, not allowing something else.”

Looking at the scriptures, especially the Hebrew Bible, there seems to be many examples of exclusion. Here are some references that paint a picture of an exclusive club God has set up. All of humanity, except for Noah and his family were excluded from living beyond the flood. (Gen6:7) All the descendants of Ham were excluded from God’s blessings. (Gen9:25) Ishmael was excluded from the covenant. (Gen17:20) Reuben, Simeon, and Levi were excluded from Jacob’s blessing. (Gen49:3-7) The Amalekites were excluded from life. (1Sam15:3) The Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites were excluded from the land beyond the Jordan. (Exo23:24) Even the Israelites were excluded from coming near the Tabernacle during set-up and take-down. (Num1:51) Even the “sons of the kingdom” are excluded from the table of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (Mat8:12) The man without wedding clothes is excluded from the wedding feast. (Mat22:12) There is a lot of exclusion that we read about. One might think that getting on God’s good side, gaining His favor, receiving His promises, are reserved for the few.  In fact, that seems to be plainly declared two verses later in Mat22:

“But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he *said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. “Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ “For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:11-14)

 So, even Messiah admits, God’s Kingdom is an exclusive place.

“Surely all the men who have seen My glory and My signs which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice, shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who spurned Me see it. (Numbers 14:22-23)

This passage in Numbers is excluding people from the Promised Land. Many times, if the conditions of God’s promises are not met, the promise is not honored. This is the mechanism of a covenant.

Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless. “I will establish My covenant between Me and you, And I will multiply you exceedingly.” (Genesis 17:1-2)

So, where is the inclusion? Who is included in life, in the promises, in the Kingdom? When God says “many are called, but few are chosen,” I don’t think He is telling us about what He does; He is not showing us that He chooses people. I think He is telling us about our human condition. “Few are chosen,” because few choose to turn back form their evil ways, few choose to love their neighbor as themselves, few choose to love God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength. We can choose to be chosen. Knock and the door will be opened, ask and you will receive, seek and you will find… choose and you will be chosen.

The Assyrian empire was ruled by ruthless, violent people whose reputation for horrible atrocities was well known throughout the world at the time of Jonah. These people deserved to be excluded from anything godly. Yet, God showed His mercy and spared them after they repented. God included them in His mercy. They chose the narrow gate, they chose life.

When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it. (Jonah 3:10)

There are two prongs to this discussion. The first is regarding our inclusion into God’s plan. I think we all who are reading this somewhat know how that goes and what we need to do. The second prong is with respect to the inclusion of others into God’s plan. Again, I think we mostly understand what is needed. But I want to emphasize here that another’s inclusion is not a decision or judgement that I can make.

Maybe you have heard the line, “Kill them all and let God sort them out.” This is a gruesome mistranslation of a Latin phrase an army commander spoke to his troops during the Crusades in the year 1209. The original quote, while no less gruesome, was a direct reference to 2 Timothy 2:19 “…The Lord knows those who are His…” Given the many scriptures that hint at God’s desire for complete and total inclusion in His plan, and given the examples set by our Messiah, I feel that we should reword the quote yet again. Let us adopt the phrase, “Love them all and let God sort them out.”

“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:35-36)

In Luke 15:11 the story of the prodigal son begins. After leaving his family with the money and breaking all the rules, he came back home and was not excluded. Be merciful as the Father is merciful. I mentioned the “many scriptures that hint at God’s desire for inclusion.” Here is a partial list: Ezekiel 33:10-11, John 10:16, 2 Peter 3:9, Ezekiel 18:32, 1 Timothy 2:3-6, Ecclesiastes 12:13 and surely you can find others. There are also many great indirect references to this idea of complete inclusion that Christ taught us through His examples. Again, here is a list: The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25) Throw the First Stone (John 8:1) Prostitutes (Luke7:36-50) Lepers (Mark 1:40) Tax Collectors (Mark 2:15-17) Children (Mark 10:13-15)

Exclusion is God’s job, not ours. Our job is inclusion. Love them all and let God sort them out.

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:2)                    

Peace to you and glory to God!



The Bible is the Word of God – not many people that I know would argue against that statement. But the Bible is not His only Word. You’ve heard the philosophical question that goes something like, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” Certainly, physicists and engineers would argue that it does. But we don’t need a calculation to prove it to be true. God spoke his word into the void, and it was heard! God’s Word truly is The Most Powerful.

Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. (Genesis 1:3)

We are most familiar with words being delivered as either spoken or written and we receive them by hearing or seeing. But, regardless of how the word is delivered, we don’t fully receive it until we understand it. I am confident that God has delivered words directly to me that I never received because I did not comprehend that they were, in fact, words from God. Most likely I was listening more closely to my old man, also known as distraction.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:1-5)

I think I need to establish what exactly I am talking about by “receiving” and “comprehending” God’s word. I am referring to times when, for example, I read a scripture like Luke 16:9 “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings.” Here, God’s word – in fact, a direct quote from Messiah – was delivered to me through the scripture; I received it, but I do not (yet) fully understand it. I know that with prayer, meditation, and studying the context, I would be able to comprehend it. And one day that will happen. Until then, that word delivered to me has little value.

And, I am also referring to times when God delivers a word to me that is not a scripture. There have been a few times when He has “spoken” to me. Sometimes I heard the word but did not comprehend it until it was too late to act. Upon reflection, I realized that God was speaking to me, prompting me to some action, and I was too slow to realize it. Other times I did hear, understand, and act. Acting on God’s word is the “goal,” but, to use a soccer analogy, recognizing it after some reflection is the “assist.” In other words, practicing our ability to identify the words God delivers to us – even if the identification comes too late – is how we draw closer to Him. Practice.

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. (James 1:22-24)

Sometimes a memory of someone suddenly comes to mind for no apparent reason. That could be the Word of God speaking to you, prompting you to connect with that person. Have you ever heard a “Word” like that? Did you act on it? Were you a Doer of the Word? In connecting with that person, you very well could be the answer to a prayer that they had sent up.

What are other ways God’s word can come to us? How many ways does God speak to us? A friend of mine was recently feeling discouraged, so he decided to step into a church to hopefully “feel the presence of God.” The choir was practicing and the hymn they were singing immediately lifted him up and his discouragement evaporated. He told me, “That song was exactly what I needed to hear.”

Surely you’ve witnessed a beautiful sunset, unable to take your eyes off it. Or, the low, full sun illuminating a distant grove of trees with a contrasting blue sky.  Or the invisible song of a bird filling the space around you with a sound you could never reproduce. Undoubtedly, something in nature has grabbed your attention and caused you to stop what you were doing and acknowledge the beauty before you. In Genesis 2:9, God created trees that were beautiful to look at. Why?

The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard. (Psalms 19:1-3)

The rest of that psalm is so beautiful. You really should read it – right now… The Heavens are telling us of the Glory of God without using “words!” The beauty of the sky is a declaration of His great work. Is it even possible to explain to someone how great God’s creation is using just words? I think you need some graphics to help! Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words… When we experience something beautiful, is it God’s Word, declaring His glory?

Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:11-17)

Someone once pointed out to me that, of the implements making up the armor of God we are given here in Ephesians, the only offensive weapon we have is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. I always took comfort in that, knowing that having scripture written on my heart and mind are the weapon I get to use against the adversary. That was one incentive I had to read my Bible! But, I am seeing that the word is not only the scriptures. My weapon to attack the spiritual forces of wickedness is the Whole Word of God! The beauty that surrounds me, the giggle of a baby, the smell of hyacinth, the taste of honey, the warmth of a hug, a majestic waterfall, and whatever else stimulates my senses, declaring the glory of His creation, are all implements I get to use for defeating the spiritual enemy. So put on the armor of God and join the fight!

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:2)                    

Peace to you and glory to God!



You have likely seen a version of the classic image of a wealthy person reclining on cushions and being fed grapes by a servant. So wealthy and powerful is that person that they are able to liberate themselves of the burden of lifting their hand to feed themselves. Oh, life is so burdensome

The sluggard buries his hand in the dish, But will not even bring it back to his mouth
(Proverbs 19:24)

A little earlier in the same chapter:

Laziness casts into a deep sleep, And an idle man will suffer hunger. (Proverbs 19:15)

There are many scriptures in the Bible, and many proverbs from worldly wisdom, that warn of the troubles that come from being lazy. We know this inherently, but given the number of reminders all around us, it seems that we humans have a tendency to lean toward relaxing rather than working. We know that hard work pays off, right? But, what is the pay-off? Why work hard? Why have such a burden? Our efforts show that we accept the gift that we are given. Messiah tells us:

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Is He encouraging us to be lazy? No, of course not… Every wheel carries a load, a racecar, a conveyor system, a bicycle, a toy fire truck… And every wheel has a bearing – commonly called a “ball bearing.” The ball bearing needs to be the correct size, or the wheel will fail under its load. Imagine designing an earth moving dump truck with wheel bearings from a skateboard. The wheels would probably break off before the engine was even installed. A bearing cannot carry a burden that exceeds its capability, or it will break. In a sense, we are all bearings, carrying our burden of life. And we can break.

For my iniquities are gone over my head; As a heavy burden they weigh too much for me. (Psalms 38:4)

God is merciful – thankfully. As our designer, He knows what loads we are rated for, and He provides us with a supplemental bearing for when the load gets too heavy. That is what Mat 11:28-30 is for. But remember, we need to cast our burdens on Him. This is an action verb – to cast… He won’t just take them from us without our asking. We need to own the decision and recognize our need of His assistance. And God won’t take all our burden. We are in training and need to carry what we are able – always increasing our capability.  

As we walk along our journey through this life, we need to consider and choose which burdens to carry and which to leave behind. There are burdens that are worthy of our efforts, necessary and/or beneficial. And there are worthless burdens that we carry around, reducing our capacity. If a plane is having engine trouble or running out of fuel and in danger of crashing, it will jettison (throw out) things that are not essential to lessen the load and increase capacity. We need to carry only what is beneficial toward our goal and jettison those burdens we carry that hold us back.

The burdens we carry, and the burdens that Messiah offered to relieve us from are not physical burdens. If we need to move a pile of soil to plant a garden, we will need a shovel, a wheel barrow, and some muscle. Christ is most likely not going to push the wheelbarrow for us. The burdens He will take for us are emotional, psychological, spiritual, relational burdens.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

That peace which surpasses comprehension is Christ taking on our mental burdens. And let’s be thankful that built into His system is a filter – we can cast all our mental burdens on Him and He will discard those that are worthless and carry those that are worthy. We need to fight our fleshly urge to pick them up as they are discarded. For example, I cast my prideful desire to be admired by people onto Him. He will immediately drop that burden saying, “No, this burden is worthless and Nate will not grow from it.” And inevitably, I will see it lying on the ground, pick it up, dust it off, put it in my wheel barrow, and continue along. This is the struggle that He wants us to discard. Forever. The Old Man strikes again… Beware of the Worthless Burdens you carry.

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, But a good word makes it glad. (Proverbs 12:25)

So, what about the worthy burdens that we should be carrying, those burdens that are beneficial, the things that help us in the end and train us for the journey? These are the burdens we should bear with joy, enthusiastically, and with all our might, knowing that our position in Christ will be enriched and made firm by carrying them.

Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one will bear his own load. (Galatians 6:2-5)

I think the seeming contradiction in Gal 6:2-5 (“Bear one another’s burdens…each one will bear his own load”) is intending each of us to always look to help another, but to never expect another to help us. In our humility, we should talk about our blessings more than we talk about our burdens.

Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, The God who is our salvation. (Psalms 68:19)

Here’s some encouragement to bear the burdens that we must carry:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)

Care for each other by lifting another’s burden, cast your mental burdens on Messiah, and don’t pick up the worthless burdens that He discards for you.

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:2)                    

Peace to you and glory to God!



There are several things that everyone desires. Some of these “universal” desires are fundamental to our being. These are the things that make for a good life. Examples of these fundamental desires are the desire to be loved, to have good health, to live in safety, that our basic needs are met. I think these fundamental desires, that every human has, are inherently good. They keep us alive. There are other very common desires, some may even be universal, that may not always be good for us. To be clear, I’m not saying they are bad, but unlike the fundamental ones, they could lead to trouble. These are things like the desire to be comfortable, to have more than I need, to be right in my thinking, to be respected by others, etc. These desires are not inherently bad, but if we put too much effort into pursuing them, we will end up going down a wrong path. For example, comfort is good – it allows us to sleep well which contributes to our health. But, pursuing comfort to an extreme will make us lazy.

But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. (James 1:14)

And, certainly there are simply some desires that we have that are just plain bad. I am sure we are all familiar enough with these and are engaged daily with those battles. I see that desire is either good or bad. But, as I illustrated above with comfort as an example, there is a gradient in our level of desire that, at some point, crosses some obscure line that separates “good” from “bad.” It is our nature to always brush up against that invisible line.

For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. (Romans 7:14-15)

Have you ever felt this – what Paul is expressing here? I have – At times incredulously, I’ve asked myself, “What am I doing? – I desire to keep God’s law, yet I am fulfilling the desire of my flesh.” Why is it that we have desires that we know are bad for us, yet we fulfill them regardless? In my humanness, I have normalized the notion that becoming athletic is a long-term process that will take me months of diligent exercise. So, I can easily justify eating a bag of chips while I sit and relax. I’ll exercise tomorrow! But then I know that if I eat a whole bag of chips, my gut will not like that, and I will feel ill in an hour or two. This is not at all in line with my justification that physical fitness is such a long-term process that waiting one more day will not matter. The regretful results are mere minutes away, yet I “love” those chips and eat the whole bag anyway… Paul tells me that my struggling with such a desire is actually proof to me that I believe that God’s law is good and that I desire to keep it.

But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. (Romans 7:16-17)

Here Paul says that “sin” is what is doing the thing that is wrong, not him. I have heard people use this to justify bad behavior. Let us not fall into that trap! My “old man” is at play here – alive and shouting out commands that I often struggle to silence or ignore. Blaming my old man for poor decisions and bad behavior is accurate and truthful, but in no way creates a valid excuse for it. We are commanded to bury, drown, crucify that old man. Yet, few of us have had any success in doing so.

“…knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. (Romans 6:6-7)

So, how can we accomplish this seemingly impossible task of killing the old man? Here’s an instruction:

“…that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Ephesians 4:22-24)

Renewed in the spirit of your mind. I’ve read that in another place, also:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

In Romans 7 Paul struggles deeply with this topic that we are discussing here, this topic that I struggle with too often. And I have found myself reading Paul’s struggle and feeling good about myself… Hey, if Paul couldn’t overcome it, if Paul couldn’t figure it out, then how can I be expected to? I don’t come close to Paul, so I shouldn’t even try. Chapter 7 ends with what sounds a little like Paul giving up – surrendering to the fact that his old man has some mastery over him. But the story doesn’t end with chapter 7. Thankfully, Paul wrote chapter 8! It is worthy of quoting here in its entirety, and you should read it all for its encouragement. But here is a nugget that sums it up:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)

I believe the reverse is also true – that is, those short term desires, like eating a whole bag of chips, will pale in comparison to the satisfaction we will get from accomplishing the long term goals, like having a strong, fit body. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, knowing that God loves you infinitely.

 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)

Be strong and courageous, be diligent in seeking Him in all things, endure to the end, desire the right things and you will be blessed. The Main Commandments are this: love God and love your neighbor – desire God above all else and all things will fall into place.

Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalms 37:4)

When you’re faced with the temptation to desire something that will take you away from God, remember that it cannot and does not compare to the glory that is to be revealed to us. 

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:2)                    

Peace to you and glory to God!